Touching the Lives of So Many Others
Karen and Jay share insights and lessons learned from the classic American Christmas movie, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.
“You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you. It’s like you were never born.” So states the central premise of that great American film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Clarence, the aspiring angel, gives George Bailey a marvelous gift - an appreciation for the positive impact his life has had and all lives he has touched in the wonderful community of Bedford Falls.
I’ve said it before in the Sunshine Report, and I’ll gladly say it again - my favorite movie of all time, by far, is the holiday classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. Often considered one of the greatest works of American cinema during the 20th century, it’s a wonderful piece of film that highlights the importance of doing right by others, no matter the circumstances and even when we think we’re not making a positive impact. If you haven’t seen the film, (which is hard to imagine if you have turned on your TV for more than a few minutes during the holiday season) just a head’s up: there may be a spoiler or two ahead.
The protagonist in the film, George Bailey, played by the famed Jimmy Stewart, is a businessman from Bedford Falls, NY who continues to take care of others at the expense of his own grand ambitions, so much so he wishes he had never been born and contemplates taking his own life. Yet a divine spirit intervenes and shows George how terrible life would be for so many in Bedford Falls had George not been there to take care of them, including his own family. Shocked and grateful for all that he has in his life after this divine intervention, he returns to Bedford Falls, thankful for all he has.
If you’re an avid reader of the Sunshine Report, you can probably guess why I love this kind of story. While it may be a Hollywood movie with a bit of a Hollywood ending, the underlying theme in It’s a Wonderful Life has a lot to teach us about our own lives and the power of gratitude, taking time to appreciate what it is that we have, not what we don’t have. As we see in the film, George gets so caught up thinking about what he doesn’t have or feels he hasn’t achieved, he forgets that much of what makes life so wonderful had always been right in front of him. Not to mention the incredibly positive impact his sacrifices had made to benefit the lives of others!
Oftentimes when we act to serve others or our community, the benefits may go completely unseen to us. Or, when life gets in the way of our ambitions, it’s easy for one to become discouraged, as George did. The unpredictability of life is such that most of what we plan will never be linear, there will in fact always be deviations or setbacks. What’s important is that in those moments, perhaps when we may be feeling a bit like George Bailey, we take a pause for gratitude, take count of our blessings for what we have. When we make this a regular practice, especially through the most difficult moments, it’s possible to see that this is in fact a ‘Wonderful Life!’
Seneca Falls, NY - the ‘Real-Life’ Bedford Falls
As is widely believed, Seneca Falls, NY, was the inspiration for the movie, It’s A Wonderful LIfe, and provided the basis for ‘Bedford Falls,’ the great small town community depicted in the movie. Frank Capra visited Seneca Falls many times as he created his vision for what would become an American classic and Jimmy Stewart's breakout role. In fact, places like the downtown and the famous bridge where Stewart stood are said to exist in Seneca Falls, very much like in the movie.
What is really cool is that you can visit Seneca Falls in the wintertime and experience downtown Christmas displays, exhibits and events highlighting the town’s connection to the movie. Think about taking a visit to the Seneca Falls ‘Wonderful Life Festival’ which takes place every year during the second weekend in December. And, there is also the Wonderful Life Museum that is open year-round. You can check it out at: https://www.wonderfullifemuseum.com
But Seneca Falls isn’t just known for It’s A Wonderful Life. Not only is it the gateway to the Finger Lakes but is also birthplace to one of the great movements in our history, securing women the Right to Vote.’ Importantly, Seneca was home to the first Women’s Rights National Convention in 1848, and it's there that the movement began, took form and led to women having the right to vote in our elections. And, today, to commemorate and celebrate this achievement, Seneca Falls is home to the Women’s Rights Historic Park, an inspiring educational experience for all ages.
With a population of around 10,000 people, Seneca reminds me so much of my hometown. In many ways it is a slightly larger version of Newport and is so much like many of our other great towns and cities around New Hampshire and across our nation. Communities like Seneca Falls/Bedford Falls embody the values of small town, America. Honesty, hard work, looking out for one another, a sense of pride and a commitment to community. And all values highlighted and on prominent display in the movie. So, it is with great appreciation we say ‘thank you to Frank Capra for creating the fictional community of Bedford Falls and helping us to see these values in a clear and heartfelt way.
Tribute To Our Coaches – Shaping The Next Generation
We owe a great deal to our mentors – especially our coaches. In addition to the athletic coaches in our high schools, there are more than 1.8 million volunteer youth coaches helping to teach, guide and nurture the lives of our young people across the United States. Throughout our lives we have various people who advise and offer guidance – who spend quality time with us and shape our character. Certainly, for most of us, we learn many of life’s important lessons from our parents. Yet there are many others who help in this department as well, and high on that list are our coaches.
I recall my time practicing and on the field with my fellow teammates when I played football for the Newport High School Tigers. My coaches’ encouragement and advice provided me with life skills that I still use to this day. In fact, I still see some of my old coaches, and I have many friends who are coaches at all levels. They teach young men and women the fundamentals of their sport, but also how to play as a team – and even aim high for better grades, while helping them build self-confidence and have the courage to pursue their dreams. I often ask myself, “How would my life be different if my coaches had not been there early on to help guide and inspire me?” I know without them I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I imagine the same could be said for many others.
The obvious coaches are the ones we have on the sports field, but coaches are certainly not limited to athletics. As any good sports coach knows, their impact goes far beyond what happens on the field and certainly don’t end when the whistle is blown. Coaches impact young adults by offering their life experience as a resource and helping us see the broader picture. When we’re young everything is new and there is a tendency to live only for the moment. The battles we face at a young age seem insurmountable at the time and without coaches, we might be prone to making poor decisions.
But coaching does not end there. As we grow up, it becomes our duty to become the coaches that we once looked up to. I have been a youth sports coach, and, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. Even apart from sports, I try to do a form of coaching with the young people I meet. Offering advice and coaching them to focus on what matters. The lessons are the same whether in sports, in business or just life in general. Perseverance, hard work, handling loss. These are life lessons and coaches are there to guide us forward. To ensure these values get passed along to the next generation, it’s critical that we keep the coaching experience alive and pay it forward. Think back to your own experience. Was there an important coach in your life – in sports or perhaps in some other pursuit? Have you ever asked yourself, if not for an older, more experienced person being a coach to you, who knows where you would have ended up!
Positive Profile of the Week: Amanda Grappone Osmer
We are delighted this week to highlight an inspiring leader and friend, Amanda Grappone Osmer.
In the movie, ‘It's a Wonderful Life,’ you see how important one person can be in the lives of others. Amanda embodies such dedication and stands out not only as a prominent and successful businessperson, but importantly also for her continuing leadership and commitment to the larger community.
She is the CEO of Grappone Automotive, a group of five new car dealerships, a wholesale parts operation, and collision center in Bow, NH. It’s a fourth-generation family business and is well-known and respected throughout the state of New Hampshire and beyond. Amanda has successfully helped the company lead the way in terms of employee engagement and interaction, committed to developing meaningful relationships and building a culture based on integrity, kindness and respect.
At the same time, she is deeply involved and supportive of so very many community organizations and initiatives. Amanda has served on the boards of NHPBS, Canterbury Shaker Village, the Endowment for Health, Partners for Community Wellness, and the state’s Lemon Law Board, as well as the Plymouth State University President’s Council She serves in advisory capacities at Spark NH, Stay Work Play and the NH Charitable Foundation’s NH Tomorrow Initiative
Today, Amanda oversees the operations at the dealership and manages a team of nearly 350 people. For close to 100 years, Grappone Auto Group has been a staple for those needing a vehicle as well as for those who have needed a helping hand. Under Amanda’s leadership and with her passion and commitment to giving back, 5% of the company's profits goes to charities each and every year. On top of that she encourages her employees to volunteer time. I know of so many great causes Amanda and her team have supported. Most recently the 121 Club, a program created by my friends the Perry’s, who raised $121,000 to build 2 ADA playgrounds at the Dartmouth Medical facilities in Hanover and Manchester. As I recall, Amanda received a letter and instantly responded, praising the Perry’s for their efforts and promised to do more if needed. It's that never-ending desire to do more that makes Amanda such a great person.
Amanda has changed the culture of the Auto Industry. In 2021, she was selected to serve on the Ford Motor Company Global Dealer Roundtable. She was one of six dealers selected in the United States and the only female owner at the table. The way she changed the car buying experience to make it more about the customer experience and less about the commission has revolutionized the industry. She spoke of this during her own TED Talk.
I knew her father Bob Grappone, who was a huge supporter during my race for Governor in 1998. He brought me around the dealership and introduced me to fellow auto industry leaders in the Granite State. His commitment to helping those succeed is a trait I see in Amanda.
I don't think Amanda will ever stop giving back. She will continue to find more ways to be involved and to make a difference. On a personal note, I am truly honored to share the honor of NH’s Top 200 Business Leaders with her this year as well. Thank you for all that you do, Amanda!
Positive Quotes of the Week: It’s A Wonderful Life
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” Clarence, Angel
“I want to live again.”
“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and next year, and the year after that.”
Clarence: “No, we don’t use money in Heaven.” George Bailey: “Oh yeah, that’s right. I keep forgetting. Comes in pretty handy down here, bub!”
“I wish I had a million dollars…hot dog!”
Young George Bailey